Tuesday, May 31, 2016

It’s Summer: Create Inviting Indoor/Outdoor Spaces

While shopping and thumbing through decorating magazines, I’ve noticed that the lines between indoor and outdoor are being blurred like never before.
As just one example, outdoor furniture has become so stylish and comfortable that it can often easily transition from the yard to the home, depending on your needs.
Here at HandmadeMN, we truly appreciate the outdoors and our natural environments.  The items featured here can travel between your inside spaces and your porch or patio, allowing you to create a true indoor/outdoor lifestyle.
Start by planting some vegetation in this earthy planter by nBaxterPottery.  The fresh and subtle colors will brighten any space, while highlighting your greenery.
Greenery in a handmade planter offers a warm welcome.
Imagine the summer sun streaming through this stained glass trout by WesternArtGlass as it hangs in a window.  Whether viewed from inside or outside your home, it will be a reminder of Minnesota’s wonderful waters for many years to come.
A stained glass trout will add color and sparkle to your window.
A handmade rustic nature shadow box will remind you of summers past, and all the fun times yet to be had in 2016 and beyond.  EarthlyShadowBoxArt’s thoughtful design allows you hang it on a wall or post, or enjoy it on a shelf or tabletop.
The lines and shapes of dried plants soothe the soul.
While you’re creating an inspiring table scape, consider this eco print scarf by DianeGamm.  Too gorgeous to store in your dresser drawer, display it on your credenza or side table until you’d like to wear it.  The pattern is created with leaves and natural dyes to lend an eco-friendly vibe to your home and wardrobe.
Take advantage of the versatility offered by this nature-inspired scarf.
The scent and visual warmth of wood easily connect our thoughts to the great outdoors.  A large geometric vase by FaustWoodworks brings the organic lines of natural wood grain to modern, high-style design.
Rustic meets modern in this handmade vase.
Carry the wood theme further with a rustic Home Sweet Home sign by TheCaitieCollection.  Your family and guests will appreciate the cozy sentiments all season long.
Share a warm welcome with a wooden sign.
Now that you’ve created the perfect indoor/outdoor spaces, why not bring the rugged beauty of nature to your favorite summer outfit?  This river stone stretch bracelet by MamaOttersTidbits will keep you in touch with nature, whether you’re enjoying your day indoors or out.
Keep nature close at hand with a river stone bracelet.
Don’t let the charms of a Minnesota summer pass you by this year.  Reflect in the beauty of nature all season long with these handmade items, created just for you by our HandmadeMN artisans.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Honoring Those Who Serve

by Cindy Lindgren
Cindy Lindgren

Memorial Day is more than a three day holiday from work filled with grilling, camping and picnics. It's meant as a time to honor those who served our country, particularly in military service. Does your family take time to find meaning in the holiday?

HandmadeMN member, Mike, from Big Lake, Minnesota told me the story behind this keychain button available in his shop, Button's Away. Mike's Dad, Vern, served in the Army in the mid 1960's at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. He then spent a year and a half in Dachau, Germany. Although it happened before Mike was born, it instilled in him a respect for the military. He and his family support the troops and empathize how hard it must be for families who have a member deployed or who have lost a loved one.

Mike and his wife Meredith wanted to instill the true meaning of Memorial Day in their children, which included a visit to a military cemetery. After they got home, their eight year old daughter, Maya, asked if she could design a flag button. So the button keychain came about by a young girl who was touched by the symbolic freedom the flag offers.

Buttons Away have a selection of military buttons available.  Please check out these and the other selections here. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you, again, to Mike for sharing the story behind the flag drawing by his daughter, Maya. Thank you to those who serve our country. We honor your service.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Handmade History: Herbals and Botanicals

by Kate McCreight, guest blogger

People have been using herbs and botanicals for cosmetics and medicinals for millennia - even before the written word. Honey, henna, cucumber, frankincense, verbena, sage, melaluca (or, tea tree oil), garlic, ginger, chamomile, and lavender have been in use for thousands of years all over the world. Evidence exists in ancient graves holding bodies buried with medicinal plants and cosmetics, and the Lascaux Caves give us the first images of herbal medicine, dating back to 13,000-25,000 BCE.

Faith, Soaps & Love, Tea tree essential oil soap with seaweed

In 65 AD, a Greek scholar, Dioscorides, wrote Matera Medica, a complete text detailing the medicinal use of more than 600 plants, complete with full color illustrations. Matera Medica remained in heavy use through the 17th century. 

Wayfaring Art, Green leather gardener's journal with Russian sage photo
Herbs and botanicals were used for cosmetics, as well, often in combination with binding agents like Ancient Egyptians famously lined their eyes with kohl. The purpose was both cosmetic and medicinal - not only did the heavy black kohl highlight the eyes and deflect light, it was also antibacterial. Ancient Romans were also heavy cosmetic users. Like the Egyptians, Romans used many of the same ingredients they used medicinally, such as olive oil, saffron, and rosewater. Romans also used lead in cosmetics to achieve a pale, smooth countenance. Pale skin - not natural to native Romans - was a mark of wealth and beauty. Despite it's danger, lead continued to be used in cosmetics through the Renaissance.

All Things Herbal, First Aid Bar
The first apothecary dates to 754 A.D., dispensing herbal remedies and medical advice. Beginning in the Eastern world, the apothecary spread westward. Mentioned in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, we know that apothecaries were widespread by the 14th century.

Monasteries of the Middle Ages were also places of healing and kept extensive medicinal gardens. Many nuns and monks possessed extensive herbal knowledge.

Gemstone Talisman, Garden gemstones talisman

As early as the 16th century, the new medical professionals, physicians, discredited herbal knowledge as unreliable and dangerous folklore and superstition. More than one herbalist was prosecuted for witchcraft, including Agnes Keith of Kent, who was burned at the stake in 1590 for using herbs to ease childbirth pains.

The gradual push to move away from herbalism has several causes. One is financial - physicians could not gain clients if said clients had access to all their medical remedies in their back garden. Another is urbanization - an increasing number of people were living in increasingly populous cities, without access to gardens.

Mirasol Farm, Organic herbal tattoo salve
Despite the rise in chemically based medicines and cosmetics, herbal remedies were still sought, as many people feared the concoctions of druggists. Rightly so, in many cases, with drugs containing such frightening ingredients as mercury and arsenic commonplace in tonics. In the Victorian era, widespread usage of medicines like Laudenum caused opiate addictions even in very young children. One "snake oil" tonic was analyzed by chemists in 1917 and proven to contain mineral oil, fatty oil (probably a beef fat), red pepper, turpentine, and camphor.

In America, oral traditions relay histories of Native American herbal use, which they learned from observing animals in the wild. The Native Americans then passed their herbal knowledge on to the European settlers.

Bath-n-Beads, Lavender bath bomb
Today, herbs and botanicals are widely used in cosmetics, bath products, teas, essential oils, and medicines. Active herbal societies around the world promote the usage of the same plants our ancestors used for healing and beauty. Thanks to global commerce and the Internet, we have easy access to far more than can be grown in our own back yards.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Crop Art - Minnesota's quirky art made with seeds

By Kelly Newcomer, HandmadeMN team member. 

At the end of summer each year I visit the crop art exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair, and I always think, "I want to do that!" So this year, I'm taking the plunge. Gluing hundreds of Minnesota crop seeds into intricate mosaics takes lots of time. I suppose it would be a nice project to work on over the winter, but I'm starting now. The 2016 Minnesota State Fair accepts entries beginning May 1st and the deadline is Friday August 12th.

What is crop art?

You take seeds (corn, wheat, millet, etc) of crops that can be grown or cultivated in Minnesota, and you glue them in such a way to create a kind of seed mosaic art form. Then you enter this art in the Minnesota State Fair. For how to do it, see links at bottom of this blog post)

Examples of great crop art

Here's a picture I took of Bloomington resident, Darlene Thorud's fabulous crop art from the 2013 MN State Fair - She used about 20 varieties of seeds including canola, wheat, safflower and three varieties of clover. Wow, where did she get all those? Advanced crop artists visit farm seed shops where seeds are usually sold by 50 pound bags. Artists need to make a special request to get one pound increments. Thorud has been exhibiting crop art since the first competition in 1965. She has been exhibiting and winning awards for her work for over 50 years.

Minnesota State Fair Crop Art by Darlene Thorud of Bloomington, MN 2013

Closeup of crop art by Darlene Thorud

I can't write a blog about crop art without mentioning Lilian Colton, known as the Queen of Crop Art, she passed away in 2007, but her work is immortalized in a book. Read more at cropart.com/liliancolton.

Another great crop artist who I happen to have a picture of her work is Cathy Camper, resident of Portland OR. Here is her 2013 portrait of Grace Jones. Cathy has an etsy shop SeedyArt with some postcard prints of her crop art.

Cathy Camper's Grace Jones portrait from the 2013 MN State Fair

It's uniquely Minnesotan

“As we understand it, we are the only state fair in the United States that has a competition in seed art,” said Ron Kelsey, (see source at end of blog) Director of the Minnesota State Fair's Seed-Art or Crop Art.

Crop Art and HandmadeMN - arts and crafts on etsy

As far as I could find, none of us on the Etsy team HandmadeMN are doing crop art (yet). There are a couple Minnesota crop seed related cute finds on HandmadeMN, and I want to showcase them here since this is a HandmadeMN blog.

Seed Packet Coin Purses

SewTini makes cute coin purses out of seed packets. What does she do with the seeds???

Art Prints of Minnesota Vegetables

Cindy Lindgren contemplates the beautiful radish. Radish seeds are allowed as a Minnesota crop seed. This would look awesome done in the medium of radish seeds.

My journey into crop art

Apparently the two-dimensional category is the one with the most entries every year. I want to try something a little different, so I will do my crop art on a hand-built bisque-fired ceramic robot figure left over from another project. I will cover the entire surface with seeds. I got out all of my bulk beans and seeds that I buy at the Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis. I have black beans, split peas, red lentils, navy beans, poppy seeds, mustard seeds, amaranth and hand-parched Minnesota wild rice.

After spending 20 minutes reading the rules on the pdf I determine that this will be a Class 5 entry, "Artistic Crop Art, irregular forms.
Other than square or rectangular etc., in shape, such as bird cut-outs, etc., and not necessarily a flat surface. Using seeds, stems, etc., on supporting background, not framed, either natural colors or dyed or painted or combinations, to achieve color needed."

I applied a small amount of paint under the flower and leaf areas.

Using toothpicks to attach amaranth inside the circles.

I used black mustard seed inside the eyes, and poppyseeds on the three grey squares.

I still need to cover this white ceramic robot form with more crop seeds.
I think I will use wild rice because it's grayish-black and evocative of Minnesota.

My work is not yet finished --it took me all weekend to get this far. Look for my finished work this summer at the MN State Fair August 25th to Labor Day, September 5th, 2016. Let me know if you have tried crop art, or if you think you will give it a try in the future.

1. Amazing website how to do crop art - visit cropart.com and Basic rules (Not endorsed or approved by the Minnesota State Fair.)

2. Ron Kelsey quote

3. Minnesota State Fair 2016 Ag-Hort-Bee webpage

4. Minnesota State Fair Ag-Hort-Bee rule book pdf  - see page 30 for Crop Art details

5. Article: Is Bloomington's Darlene Thorud the New Queen of Crop Art? Star Tribune, July 7, 2010 by Mary Jane Smetanka

6. Liz Schreiber Making Crop Art Video Fox9 from 2015

Liz Schreiber glues down a grain of wild rice on her crop art piece for the Minnesota State Fair. See her technique in this video with our M.A. Rosko

7. Native Harvest - selling hand-harvested wild rice, birch bark winnowing trays, and more. Native Anishinaabe Indian owned. White Earth Nation. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Meet the Maker, Mary Pow

by Cindy Lindgren

Meet Mary Pow, HandmadeMN member, designer, textile artist and successful creator behind
Minnebites and Mary Pow.  Minnebites launched in 2011 with her creatively sewn sharks, bugs and
whales pouches. This year Mary concentrated on the launch of her signature line of handbags and accessories at The American Craft Show last month at the St. Paul Rivercentre. I visited Mary's booth and admired not only her entire line of stylish bags, wrap belts and clutches, but her visual branding as well.

This event is hosted by the American Craft Coucil. More than 225 top contemporary jewelry, clothing, furniture and home decor artists from across the country were present. Here's a link to Mary's blog, recapping her experience with this prestigious group of artists.

You have an opportunity to meet Mary this Saturday, May 14th at The Textile Center in Minneapolis. Her collection of handbags and accessories will be on view and available for purchase. Mary will be there to chat about her work. What a great opportunity to meet this talented designer! Here's a link for more information.

Mary Pow+Minnebites

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Etsy Treasury HandmadeMN May Meander

'O F F I C I A L . . HandmadeMN . M A Y . Treasury' by westernartglass

Custom Original 18 x 24 Kami...

Framed Beetle Diorama Playin...

Calla Lily card

Easter gift for kids. Tiny t...

Bicycle Tube Earrings - Pixe...

Tardigrade Blank Book 3.5in....

1930s Silvertone Lap Steel G...

Minneapolis Art Print: Twin ...

Riveted silver jewelry, red ...

Vintage Ukelele - Rustic Mus...

Woodfired Cup/Mug And Saucer...

Curiosity limited edition sc...

8x10 Let It Shine Print

Handmade Rustic Nature Shado...

minnesota state fair "i...

Early 1940's Very Ornate...
Powered By Handmadeology

or, a Roy Smeck leaf lullaby...

...a little something by Brian Western

Juxtaposition.  My mother is still living in her own apartment at the age of 92.  My father died when he was 52.

Sir Terry Pratchett enjoyed playing with words while slicing through the space time continuum…and in the end…words failed him.

My granddaughter is 4 ½ years old, and beginning to connect the dots of life and death.  She’s watched as the aging rabbits that were her parents pets, one by one became sick and died.  Franz was the last…a friendly Flemish Giant.  And there was Herschel the Dutch and Gumdrop a Californian before…yes…they had a boatload of rabbits!

As we passed an enormous cemetery on Dale Street on our way to Roseville, she asked, “Is that where dead people are?”
“That’s where their bodies are…not their spirits”
“Is it grown ups, or little kids?”
“Mostly grown-ups, you know? Some little kids…”

On the way to The Minnesota Zoo, the week before, she had asked if I knew when she was going to die.  I told her that I didn’t, that only God knows when someone is going to die.  And then I wondered at the theological implications from a four year olds perspective.  Well…most people live a long life…I thought I should throw in the longevity average.

And then, there’s Roy Smeck…

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mother's Day Gift Guide

by Cindy Lindgren
Cindy Lindgren

How would you describe your Mom? Is she the kind that loves doing crafts? Would you find her curled up with a good book, if she had free time? Or maybe she loves personalized gifts that remind her of her children?  Our HandmadeMN team members have a gift for your kind of Mom. Click the purple title to link to their Etsy shop for more information. They are all handmade with love.

For a Mom who loves nature and flowers, a hand-painted silk scarf

For the Mom who has a lot to carry, a personalized Tote Bag that is pretty, stylish and water-resistant

For the Mom who wants to keep her kids close to her heart, a Mother's Gemstone Charm 

For a Mom who likes bright colors, fresh style, and a light weight fabric purse

For the Craft Mom who deserves the best of everything, a Letter Punch Set

For the Mom who loves bling, a Recycled Silver Tote 

For the Mom, Grandma or Aunt who loves a touch of the unique, a Terrarium Wall Globe Kit

For the Mom or Grandma who loves celebrating her family in her own special way, a Custom Necklace

For the Mom who's a nature lover, or wine lover or both, a Silver Grape Leaf Necklace

For the new Mom, a Handlebar Purse that attaches to a stroller

For the religious Mom, a Blacksmith Forged Iron "Celtic" Cross

For a Mom who lover flowers and bright colors, a  Hand Painted Silk Scarf with Pink Poppies

For the Mom who likes personalized gifts and art, a Custom Child Silhouette Portrait

For the 'whole' Mom, a Custom Letter Illustration that celebrates your unique Mom

A keepsake for your Mom, her Birthstone on a Hammered Fine Silver Circle Necklace

For the Mom who likes, no, NEEDS, coffee. A Spongeware Coffee Dripper

For the Mom who lends out her books and never gets them back, Bird Book Plate Stickers

For the Mom facing challenges with grace, Inspiring Necklaces
For Mom's who love nature, an eco print silk scarf with Butternut and Cedar trees
For the Mom that enjoys bees, honey, avocado dip and poses as a film noir star while contemplating her next eco-friendly move, Honeycomb Earrings.